Kaiser Permanente (KP) is one of the most extensive healthcare providers in the country. Like most of its corporate peers as well as individual healthcare providers, Kaiser Permanente has not organized its healthcare provision around marketing. However, in the recent past, there have been increasing efforts by KP's management to increase its marketing scope. This serves to underscore the importance of marketing in an industry that has traditionally had to incorporate marketing in its functioning; this is on account of a changing operating environment (Bernhardt, 2006). It is, therefore, important to evaluate the impact of marketing on KP as a healthcare provider, as well as the marketing strategy that it may use to improve its marketing outcomes.
The primary impact of the marketing function on KP is that it helps the provider to develop patient-centered products. This is on account of the fact that one of the key functions of marketing is conducting consumer research. From the consumer research, it will then become possible for KP to understand the tastes and preferences of patients and as such, providing the basis for development of tailored products. This is important as it will steer the healthcare provider towards a patient-centered approach in healthcare provision. According to Radu et al (2017), this is important as healthcare industry shifts towards patient centeredness as the primary threshold for healthcare provision. Therefore, having patient centered products helps to improve the value that KP provides to its patients by providing high quality care. This will help the healthcare provider retain its existing patients as well as attract new ones. This is crucial especially in an era where patients have a wide array of options to choose from with regard to healthcare providers.
Marketing also impacts KP on the basis of providing opportunities for the healthcare provider to lower its costs. This is on account of the fact that according to Bernhardt (2006), one of the core marketing activities in healthcare is building sustainable channels of distribution. This will help improve the efficiency with which KP provides services to its patients. This is especially so considering that KP has a wide distribution channels (due to operating an extensive network of healthcare facilities). Therefore, by leveraging on marketing, KP can improve its overall efficiency of distributing healthcare products, hence enabling it to lower its cost outlay in the long run.
The use of channels of marketing such as social media can help KP encourage adoption of desired behaviors on the part of its prospective patients. In essence, as a result of marketing, KP can package its messaging and health information in a manner that is easily understood by their target clientele. The impact of this on KP is that it helps to create an expanding pool of prospective customers. This provides KP with a competitive edge especially in an environment of ever increasing numbers of healthcare providers at both individual and corporate levels.
It is, therefore, important that KP develops a marketing strategy if the positive impacts of marketing are to be felt by the healthcare provider. However, prior to crafting of a marketing strategy, it is important to ensure that there is adequate understanding of the nature of utilization of KP's various products and services. In this regard, data collection will be an important step in determining utilization of KP's products and services.
This will be achieved by collecting data from patients on key factors of healthcare quality such as length of hospital quality, rates of readmission as well as patient's overall experience while in KP's healthcare facilities. An evaluation of data on nature of payments made by patients can also provide insights on utilization of KP's products and services. In the era of social marketing as a tool for engagement with both existing and prospective patients, KP can use the same to gauge the level of utilization of its products. This will primarily be on the basis of feedback that KP receives from both its existing and prospective patients, who use tools of social marketing such as social media. Other than feedback gained through social marketing tools, other contemporary forms of feedback will be crucial in determining utilization of KP's products and utilization.
KP can also make use of more formal approaches to gauge utilization of products and services. Such approaches may include the use of surveys for both its existing and prospective patients as well as KP's other stakeholders in the provision of healthcare. This is especially important given that stakeholders such as patients and healthcare practitioners affiliated with KP are in a better position to evaluate services and products offered by KP that are utilized the most.
In developing KP's marketing strategy, it is important to have an overview of the healthcare provider's gap in delivery of service; the marketing strategy will then be built around these gaps. One of the primary weaknesses for KP as a healthcare provider has been with regard to social marketing. This is a crucial oversight by KP's management given that according to Aras (2011), social marketing is an important factor in the provision of quality healthcare in the modern day context since it ensures that the community and society at large is intimately engaged in healthcare provision. The other gap that is apparent in KP's healthcare provision is that of communicating its pricing to both its existing and prospective customers; its marketing strategy will focus on these two gaps.
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